We decided to go camping on 2015 summer solstice weekend to make the most of the daylight. I’ve never been camping before. (I know it’s shocking but it’s not my fault – there wasn’t Scouts, Guides or Duke of Edinburgh where I grew up, plus the nearest “wilderness” was about 6 hours drive away.) I got very excited.
We arrived at Kielder Campsite at about 8.30pm. There was a funny feeling to the place as soon as we drove in. There were plenty cars and tents. The place was quite full. But apart from two men wearing waterproof jackets with hoods on even though it was not raining, there was no one in sight. Many folding camping chairs were set up nicely on the lawn, but with no one sitting on them. No one was walking around. It felt like a “ghost campsite”.
The reason was soon obvious – they were all eaten by midges. No. They were all hiding either inside their tents or escaped to somewhere else. Looking briefly into the sky, the swarms of midges reminded me of the plagues in Genesis. It was getting dark, so we couldn’t see them very well. But millions of tiny bodies were crashing into and sticking onto our face and hands. The noise they made was enormous when they were finding ways into our ears.
We came to Kielder Observatory last year same season and had the privilege to meet the midges then. This time, I wasn’t thinking about it specifically when I did the last minute packing, but I stuffed two summery scarves in the bag. Those scarves were the most useful items during the trip. We looked like robbers for most of the time. Midge spray didn’t do much at all, apart from making my hair and skin really sticky.
Everything became ten times harder when you have to fight with midges at the same time. We put the tent up surprisingly fast, stuffed mats and sleeping bags in through a small opening from the zip and escaped back to the car for some dinner.
The second shocking thing was how small the tent actually was. Because we intend to hike and camp without a car, a lightweight tent was our priority. But this two-men tent was too mini for us. My husband is quite tall (6 foot 2/185cm). He was just about able to fit in. Although the diagram says the tent is 210cm long, it wasn’t long enough. The bottom end of the tent was too narrow. There wasn’t enough room for our sleeping bags. The middle section was so low down that we couldn’t do anything apart from lie flat. I nearly broke my neck trying to put a fleece top on – I had to because…
Thirdly, it was freezing at night. I woke up at 5am, with my feet feeling like they’d just came out of a fridge. I could hear birds and rain and it was already getting light. I thought about the eye masks, loose socks and a hat which had been left in the car, because I couldn’t think properly when being attacked by midges last night. Tough lesson learnt, I will always keep some clothes nearby next time. Next time? Yes, although the whole evening and night was awful, I might like to try it again.
We got up at 7am. The rain dropped on me from the door as soon as I opened the zip. Then it was the midges again. I ran to the toilet, two women were laughing at each other’s faces. I only noticed at this point the bites on my hands – midges must be hungry over night!
We left the campsite at about 8am. Most people were getting ready to escape too. What an experience!
I did some research on midges after we came back and realised it was a real big problem in Scotland. There are also a lot of detailed explanations on this creature but no obvious solution is provided by anyone.
But anyway, we went for a couple of walks around the Reservoir, and Corbridge later on in the day. Here are some photos of Kielder Water on that beautiful morning, perfectly still.
The walking mileage of the day was 5.69 miles.